Within days of the restrictions relaxing in the UK I was on my way to the first staycation of 2021. With the strong need for a mix of culture and coast, Norfolk was a perfect destination for a two day break. And as usual the schedule was jam packed to ensure I saw as much as possible. As such I opted to stay in Kings Lynn, which gave me easy access to all the spots that were on my agenda.
The first stop on the trip was the 243 hectare estate of Sandringham. Here you can explore the vast woodlands and parklands, with the waymarked trails available for both cycling and walking (and dog friendly) and children’s play area.
On my visit, my main focus was the house and gardens itself. As with most attractions at the moment, pre booked tickets are a must, so if you are interested in exploring the 1870 country house and landscaped gardens, then it’s highly recommended to book in advance.
Most famously known for being Queen Elizabeth’s country house, and the place where both her Father and Grandfather died, I have always been rather intrigued by the stunning building and grounds. On an early spring, yet slightly overcast day, there was plenty to admire within the gardens – Wisteria was blooming and even the Bluebells were holding out too. Sadly, at the time of my visit the house itself remained closed to the public.
However, this did mean visitors were very sparse and therefore made for a much more enjoyable and peaceful visit. Take time to wander the paths, around the lake and on you way back to the main facilities pass by St Mary Magdalene Church – most famous for the Christmas Day service the Royal Family attend.
Next port of call was Wells-next-the-Sea. During our trip for Norfolk in 2020, we drove through the area but did not have time to stop. Therefore the port town was high on the list to return whenever I was next in the area. The award wining, dog friendly beach, is a must when in the region. Only a short walking distance, along the Norfolk Coastal Path, from the neighbouring Holkham, this sandy beach with colourful beach huts is popular with many! If you are not up for the walk from one of the nearby beaches, then you can park in the town and jump on the Wells Harbour Railway to the coast itself.
On return, take time for some fish and chips whilst sitting around the marina or spend a few pennies in one of the traditional arcades.
Whilst many pick the elegant resort of Hunstanton as their base when visiting the North Norfolk coast, I had just two things that were on my list, both of which required low tide.
Timing my visit just right, early in the morning I headed to this stunning coastline to take in the uniquely red and white striped cliffs. The famous red rock colour comes from iron pigments and is very rich in fossils. At low tide, you can walk along the beach taking in this fantastic view above and rock pools below.
The other point of interest whilst visiting at low tide is the rather breathtaking shipwreck in-bedded in the sand and rocks. Here you will see the remains of the 1907 Steam Trawler Sheraton. Originally used as a shipping vessel and designed to handle hostile conditions in the North Sea. During both World Wars, the ship was used by the Royal Navy, before high winds caused it to stray from its moorings in 1947.
Castle Acre Priory
Castle Acre Priory, an English Heritage site is one of the largest and best preserved monastic sites in England. Dating back to 1090, it was home of the first Cluniac order of monks to England.
As with most locations on this particular trip I benefited from a lack of visitors and took time to explore the impressive remains, exhibition and displays.
To fully benefit from your visit, I would recommend picking up the audio tour to guide you round the site.
Castle Acre Castle and Bailey Gate
Just a short walk from the Priory you will find the rural village, boasting a wealth of history. Castle Acre Castle was founded soon after the Battle of Hastings, by William de Warenne, a close associate of William the Conqueror. Here visitors can roam the castle remains for free.
A stones throw from the castle, you will find the two stone gatehouses, The Bailey Gate. The main road to the village still runs through the towers, which was added to the settlement for defence purposes in 1200.
Whilst Ely is not located in Norfolk, I could not help but make an impromptu stop on the way home. After seeing the impressive cathedral towering the roads below en-route I made sure to make a de-tour and I cannot believe it had never been on my list before.
Famous for its resident, Oliver Cromwell, Ely is the second smallest city in England offering a large number of attractions that would be enough to fill a full day. Sadly on this visit, I simply wandered the impressive Cathedral and the surrounding streets. However, I left with a vow to return and explore a little more.
The first staycation of the year certainly lived up to expectation. There were beaches and coastal views, castles and cathedrals, and an abundance of history.
While international travel remains somewhat of a risk I certainly will be continuing my adventures in the UK – taking full advantage of my National Trust and English Heritage Memberships.
What are your top UK staycation spots?